10 Simple Driving Skills Everyone Should Know
Driving is not intrinsically easy. Watch the morning news and you're guaranteed to see no less than four car accidents before you've even finished your coffee. Fortunately, these 10 easy-to-learn skills will turn you into the type of driver insurance companies reward, and other drivers respect. Plus, everyone should know how to properly parallel park... it really isn't that hard, people.
1. Maintaining control when a tire blows out
There are a few steps you should take if you have a sudden and violent deflation of a tire, but essentially your goal is to keep the car pointed in a straight line while you slow it down. Read up on the full procedure here.
2. Recovering from a slide
If, mid-spin, all you see is a menacing guardrail, it’s a near certainty that you’re going to hit it. Keeping your eyes on the road, focused on where you want to be rather than on the object toward which you’re going, is paramount.
Turn the steering wheel toward where your eyes are, and keep it there. Don’t worry about how far to turn the wheel; thanks to the magic of hand-eye coordination, if your eyes are in the right place, you’ll steer to the right place.
Provided you’re not getting sideways because of an overenthusiastic use of throttle, what you need to do is accelerate carefully, which will force the car to rock back onto the rear wheels, and give the tires the added traction needed to regain control. As the car begins to straighten out, smoothly apply the brakes, and pat yourself on the back.
3. Adjust your focal point
If you think of your brain as a computer, you’ll understand that it needs time to process various pieces of information. If you’re only looking at the car in front of you, you’re not allowing your brain much time to process potential threats.
Look as far ahead as you can to give yourself as much time as possible to react. In busy traffic on a freeway, you should be focusing your eyes past the first few cars in front of you. Look between lanes if you can, and trust that your peripheral vision will alert you if the car in front slams on its brakes. That’s why you have it.
4. Braking with antilock brakes
It’s amazing that so many people don’t know what to do in an emergency while driving a car with ABS... which is nearly every modern car on the road. A lot of confusion comes from being taught how to drive by parents that grew up in a pre-antilock time, when things like modulating the pedal, pumping the brakes, and being unable to steer while braking was common. Now? Braking in an emergency involves one step: press the brake pedal down as hard as you can.
5. Driving in the rain
In light rain, all the oil on the road from other cars will ensure that the road is at its most slick. Heavier rains wash that away, but then you deal with potential hydroplaning if there’s so much water that the tires don’t come into contact with the pavement. The secret is to keep your eyes peeled for any puddles that are potentially deeper than the rest. Note any abnormally large splashes from vehicles in front of you, so you have time to prepare by either slowing down or moving over.
6. Driving in the snow
First things first: make sure your car has adequate tires for snow use. All-season tires will work for the lighter stuff, and in heavier stuff if you’re a little more careful, but if you live somewhere that has the kind of winter that traditionally involves shoveling driveways, you need to have winter tires.
The rest of snow driving is really a matter of common sense. Drive with plenty of caution, allow plenty of space for cars in front of you, and stay within your abilities.
If you try to turn and nothing happens, you’re going too fast for the conditions, and you need to straighten out the steering wheel and brake gently until you’re going slow enough to make the turn. If the car starts spinning on you mid-turn, refer to #2 on this list.
7. Be a defensive driver
Be aware of what’s going on around you, including types of vehicles and what each driver is doing (i.e. texting, driving erratically, etc.). The safest play is to assume someone is about to cause a wreck, so it’s your job to figure out where you would go once one starts to unfold. Can you duck onto the shoulder or is there a drop-off? Is there someone in the lane next to you, or can you swerve into it if need be?
8. Get a grip on road rage by taking the road less travelled
As with most other undesired behaviors, understanding road rage is the key to keeping it in check. It’s simply aggression as a means to assert dominance over strangers viewed more as large metallic objects rather than as people. And take a more decongested route—It’ll be a more relaxing drive since you’ll be worrying less about drivers, probably won’t add more than a couple of minutes to your journey, and might be a more interesting and enjoyable road anyway.
9. Operating a manual transmission
The fact that the vast majority of vehicles today are automatics doesn’t mean there will never be a time in your life when someone will count on you to drive his or her manual car. You don’t have to be a gearhead to drive a stick shift, and it’s a skill you’ll feel really good about having once you do.
10. Parallel Parking
Sure, more and more cars are capable of parking themselves with each passing year, but this is still a valuable skill to have, and it’s actually pretty easy. You just:
- 1. Pull up until you’re almost even with the car in front of you, but not quite.
- 2. Crank the steering wheel toward the curb, and start backing up.
- 3. Once the rear wheel of the curb-facing side of your car is even with the street-facing side of the first car, straighten the steering wheel and continue reversing.
- 4. When the rear wheel of the street-facing side of your car is even with the street-facing side of the other, crank the steering wheel in the opposite direction.
- 5. Reverse until you’re parallel.
- 6. If that doesn’t work, you’re at least close by this point, so a couple of adjustments and you should be good to go.
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